PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Darrun Hilliard scored a career-high 26 points and No. 8 Villanova set a school record for regular-season wins with a 73-56 victory over Marquette on Sunday.
Josh Hart added 13 points and JayVaughn Pinkston had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats (26-3, 14-2 Big East), which has won four straight and 10 of 11.
The Wildcats had never won 26 regular-season games in the 95-year history of the program. Villanova won 25 games four previous times, most recently in 2008-09, a season it reached the Final Four.
Deonte Burton scored 13 points for Marquette (17-12, 9-7) and Todd Mayo finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
Playing in the Wells Fargo Center — the home of the Philadelphia 76ers — Hilliard almost looked like an NBA guard with the kind of show he put on for the fans. The junior guard had 18 points in first half and set his career high with a dazzling drive that put the Wildcats up 66-47 with 4:58 left.
Hilliard’s previous career high of 25 points came in an upset win over Syracuse last season — also at the Wells Fargo Center.
Trying to make a late push to get into the NCAA tournament for the ninth straight year, Marquette came in having won five of six, including an important two-point victory over Georgetown on Thursday.
But the Golden Eagles never threatened to upset the Wildcats, shooting just 4 for 15 from 3-point range and 16 for 25 from the free throw line. They committed 15 turnovers.
After falling behind by 11 points at halftime, Marquette made just one field goal through the first 5 minutes of the second half to allow Villanova to open a 48-29 lead.
Villanova led by double digits the rest of the way to move one full game ahead of No. 9 Creighton for first place in the Big East.
Hilliard and Hart combined to score Villanova’s first 20 points, before Pinkston and Tony Chennault scored the next nine for the Wildcats. Daniel Ochefu then forced a steal, ran ahead of the pack and had a transition dunk to cap a 17-4 run and send Villanova to a 31-18 lead with 3:16 left in the first half.
The Golden Eagles cut the deficit to six points a couple of minutes later, but Hilliard scored five straight points to close the half, hitting two free throws after Marquette coach Buzz Williams was called for a technical foul and drilling a 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats led 36-25 at halftime despite foul-plagued starting guards Ryan Arcidiacono and James Bell playing just 6 and 5 minutes, respectively. Neither scored in the first half and Bell, the team’s leading scorer, didn’t score at all and remains six points shy of 1,000 points for his career.
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